Again, not mine.
Part 3: 360 Trailhead to Violet Crown Trailhead, Miles 3.5-5.25
I guess this is cheating a little bit, but since the first part of the Greenbelt is also considered part of the Violet Crown trail, hopefully everyone will let it slide. It also means that the map above isn’t going to reflect this segment. Picture a line running straight down from Marker 8 to U.S. 290; that’s the section of the trail we’re talking about today.
Actually, just use this instead. Not mine, obviously.
This is probably my favorite section of the trail to run. It’s almost totally shaded, so runs are tolerable even in the summer. You also get to do a lot of fun scrambling on the rocks here. You can park at either end of the trailhead, and there’s usually plenty of parking in both lots. The 360 Trailhead (3755 S Capital of Texas Hwy B, Austin, TX 78704) is one of the easiest spots to get to: take the exit from Mopac onto 360 going east and turn left at the traffic light. You’ll want to immediately hug to the far left of the parking lot to hit the trailhead. For access at the Violet Crown trailhead, just park at the Spec’s (4970 W US Hwy 290, Austin, TX 78735) and head to your left to reach the trail.
Assuming you’re heading west from the 360 trailhead, you’ll pass under 360 itself and get to check out whatever graffiti is decorating the overpass; there’s usually some pretty cool stuff. It’ll immediately get rocky, so watch your step. After going a little ways, you’ll hit a fork in the trail. Going up and to your left will keep you on the multi-use trail, while going through the wooden gate to the right will put you on a pedestrian-only trail for a little bit. The pedestrian trail is better shaded but less technical. Either way, both trails will spit you out to a wooden bridge at around Mile 4.
Gives you an idea of the shade. And the rocks!
This is where things really get fun. You’ll scramble up and down narrow rock formations right alongside the creek. One point is so narrow that there’s actually a chain attached to the rock wall to help you get across. Be warned that this portion of the trail is really slick when wet, so I wouldn’t advise coming out here if it’s raining or has recently rained.
Just past Mile 4.25, you’ll hit another fork. Well, sort of. It’ll look like the creek continues to your right and the trail goes away from the creek to your left. If you go to the right through the creek (assuming there’s water in it), you’ll actually continue under Mopac onto the Greenbelt proper and head for Twin Falls. That’s for another day, though. Stay on the path to continue on the Violet Crown trail.
This is what the fork looks like. Thanks to The Austinot.
The trail rolls gently, and you’ll pass several downed trees and cross dry creekbeds. This section of the trail seems to be less-trafficked at this point, so it’s also a good place to see deer if you’re out early in the morning. There are very few branching paths since this section of the trail is so new, so it’s pretty straightforward.
Just past Mile 5, you’ll hit a switchbacking uphill climb section. This is how you’ll know you’re getting close to the end. Once you make it up the switchbacks, you’ll run past the Wildflower Center and a couple of tennis courts, and you’ve made it to the end! At least for now. Phase Two of the Violet Crown trail is currently under construction, and it’s supposed to be 30 miles long once complete. Keep up with progress on that here.